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Dry conditions left wheat a bit behind heading into winter

After being swamped by water all spring and into early summer, many parts of the state turned dry for the later stages of the growing season and into fall. This translated into great harvest conditions, but also some early struggles for the wheat crop in some areas.

The dry weather allowed Jeff Duling — who farms in Hancock, Putnam and Van Wert counties — to get harvest underway quickly and wheat planted in a timely manner. By mid-October the wheat was in the ground, but it didn’t emerge for quite some time.

“Dry soil has delayed wheat emergence. On Oct. 20, we travelled to the Northwest Agricultural Research Station in Wood County to do a wheat stand count. However, we didn’t find anything to count, and the wheat was planted on Oct. 1. Similar trends are being observed in other locations across the state — wheat is taking an unusually long time to emerge,” wrote Laura Lindsey and Pierce Paul, Ohio State University Extension, in a recent CORN Newsletter. “Some has only just emerged after being planted for more than a week (or a month). In our plots, the wheat seeds were still in good condition, but the soil was just too cool and dry for the seeds to germinate and emerge.”

Interestingly, the wheat field in the plots that were tilled were the most delayed, while the no-till wheat that had retained more moisture had emerged. As temperatures warmed after the cold snap in late October and some rains provided much-needed moisture, the rest of the wheat in the plots (and on Duling’s farm) had emerged. The question going into winter, though, is if the delayed emergence will hurt the yield potential for the crop.

“As usual, what happens next depends on the weather. Wheat that emerges late and enters winter dormancy with few very small tillers has reduced winter hardiness. However, if freezing weather does not occur until late November or early December, wheat that emerges late may still develop three to four tillers, which helps to reduce winter-kill, and may still yield similarly to wheat that emerged in a timely manner,” Lindsey and Paul said. “Currently, we are in the process of revising the recommendations for the minimum wheat stand required for profitable wheat production. Our preliminary data (based on two locations of research in 2015) indicates that with fewer than 38 wheat shoots (main stem and tillers) in a linear foot of row at the Feekes 5 growth stage (green-up), wheat yield is reduced to less than 75 bushels per acre. As wheat greens up in the spring, we recommend examining your field for the number of wheat shoots.”

For any wheat that has still not emerged, a few seeds should be dug and examined for viability. A warm December could allow time for more tiller development headed into winter.

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